Football was nothing more than a sideshow this afternoon to a referee who clearly thought the fans had come to see him dish cards out and the continued protests against Ken Bates.

The “dissident minority” as Ken Bates so arrogantly branded fans opposed to his ownership of the club were vocal before, during and after the match as the hostility towards our chairman continues to grow from something easily dismissed as a vociferous few to the vast majority of Leeds United fans.

Various banners had been created and several different songs were sung, but they were all united in their message; enough is enough Ken, it’s time to go.

The match itself started brilliantly for Leeds United who completely dominated proceedings, right up until the point where Max Gradel was given a second yellow card and sent down the tunnel after just 26 minutes. Second yellow was unquestionable, but the first was handed out in the opening minutes, a period in which most referees would have had a word to calm things down a little. Not this ref though, this ref was part of a growing breed of referees who are convinced the supporters come to watch them blow their whistle.

Despite the numerical advantage, Boro struggled to take a hold of the game and Leeds United continued to battle on and carve out chances. Howson, Clayton, McCormack and Snoddy were all causing the visiting team problems, as was Tom Lees who appears to be unmarkable from set-plays and had several good chances.

As we approached half-time there were plenty of positives as Leeds proved they were more than equal to Middlesbrough despite the numerical disadvantage.

And then, almost predictably, the referee decided to level things out with another dubious sending off. This time, the referee pointed his shiny new cards in the direction of McMahon whose perplexed reaction was mirrored by the travelling away contingent. The Leeds United fans meanwhile considered it justice.

The late sending off of McMahon in the first half meant the second half started with complete parity, both in terms of scoreline and players remaining.

But it wasn’t long until the referee decided to ruin what had temporarily become a good battle on the pitch by sending Jonny Howson off and restoring Middlesbrough’s numerical advantage. It was another dodgy decision from an absolute joke of a referee who looked ready to book Emnes for a dive, but then appeared to change his mind and show Jonny Howson his second yellow card instead.

With only nine men remaining, Leeds had their work cut out and for the most part, were chasing shadows. Andy Lonergan made more saves today than most keepers would have to make in a month and was indisputably the man of the match. But try as he may – and believe me his performance should be described as nothing less than epic – Emnes found a way passed him on 67 minutes which would ultimately decide the match.


Despite the result, Leeds United fans left proud with a battling performance from the team under extreme and ridiculous circumstances. Even with nine men remaining, the “keep fighting” spirit of Billy Bremner lived on at Elland Road, embodied by each and every one of our players.

Adam Clayton was once again incredible as one of Leeds’ biggest threats up front and a workhorse destroyer in the centre of the park. He also made a bid for goal of the season with an attempt to lob the keeper from around the centre-circle, and was only denied by the fingertips of Boro’s keeper.

Simon Grayson’s ingenious decision to play four centre-backs (Lees, Bromby, Kisnorbo and O’Dea) in our back line was not the solution to all our problems. Whilst Lees seems to be slowly adapting to the right-back position, O’Dea is closer to a striker than he ever will be a full-back. Still, it was good to see the manager didn’t shy away from making changes – we saw that all too often last season.

Overall, I can’t help but feel cheated by the referee. I doubt any Middlesbrough fan in attendance today can honestly say they would have won without the red cards – Leeds were running them off the park. It was the kind of performance we needed to see after the shambolic display at Southampton, even if we didn’t get the result we deserved.

Bates Protest pics by @LUFC_AwayDays and @NJBLUFC

Simon Grayson’s reaction to red cards

“I don’t know what words to describe it. Everybody is referring to a few of the decisions. It amazes you at times.

“You have 20-odd thousand here, a passionate local derby, two players go for a 50-50, not over the top or anything like that, and they’re both yellow-carded which puts them both on the back foot.

“Neither of them went over the top and then Max makes a rash challenge. He then decides to even it up by sending off Tony McMahon which I don’t think was another yellow card, and then the second sending-off absolutely baffled me.

“I’ve been in to see the referee. The second decision with Jonny Howson is an unbelievable decision. He has given a free-kick in our direction and was about to book Emnes and, if he wasn’t rolling around on the floor like he was doing, he’d have been booked and we’d have had a free-kick. He was going to book him for diving, that’s what he’s told me.

“He’s clipped Jonny Howson’s leg – I’ve seen the DVD – and while he’s rolling around on the floor, the fourth official tells him from 60 yards that he’s made the wrong decision and Jonny Howson gets sent off.

“The referee is 10-15 yards away, and how he can’t make the decision himself or make it and then get overruled, leaves me bewildered.”

Middlesbrough boss Tony Mowbray meanwhile sympathised with the referee saying he had a “difficult” game. Always easier when you’ve got the three points.